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Florida dOiNg iTs oWN vAcCInE rEseArcH
The state's now recommending young men not get the vaccine.
We've known from the get-go that Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is an anti-vaccine quack . That's why Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him in the first place. A member of the woo-woo anti-science "America's Frontline Doctors," which promoted hydroxychloroquine as a "cure" for COVID, Ladapo has long sought tocast doubt on masks and the COVID vaccines , making him the ideal DeSantis medical "expert."
Here are the facts: The FDA-approved vaccines against COVID have been repeatedly proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials, and as of this week, more than 612 million doses of the vaccines (including boosters) have been given to Americans. But in his latest attempt to kill Floridians, Ladapo relied upon an extremely bad "study" — not peer reviewed, and by anonymous "authors" — to issue a recommendation Friday that men aged 18 to 39 should avoid the mRNA vaccines for COVID — the familiar vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna. While every other study has found the vaccines safe, Ladapo claimed that the risk of heart problems in that age group outweighed the protection provided by the vaccines.
This is where we point out again that the "study" that recommendation is based upon is demonstrably garbage, and we'll show you why in a moment. But this is a truly disturbing development: A state agency here in US America is now pushing completely invalid pseudoscience as policy, and that's going to lead to people avoiding a safe and effective vaccine against a disease that's still killing hundreds of Americans daily. It's especially dangerous as we head into fall and winter, when people will be indoors more, and in Florida, hardly anyone will be wearing masks, also thanks to DeSantis's war on public health.
Dr. Peter Hotez, the co-director of Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and dean of Baylor College of Medicine's National School of Tropical Medicine, called the "guidance" a "phony-baloney" tactic that has far more to do with DeSantis's political ambitions than actual medical advice:
This is much more of a political stunt than it has anything to do with science or protecting the population of the people of Florida … They cherry pick the risks, and they cherry pick the benefits.
In a detailed Twitter threadand blog post, Yale medical data expert and ER doc Kristen Panthagani explains some of the screaming problems in the "analysis" Ladapo presented as justification for his "guidance." For starters, not only hasn't the thing been peer-reviewed, the document doesn't even identify who did the analysis — no names, no hint at qualifications or institutional affiliations. To reach the conclusion that there's supposedly a greatly increased risk of death from cardiac issues within 28 days of receiving an mRNA vaccine — something no other research has found — the purported study uses some seriously hinky methodology.
Panthagani notes that, rather than reviewing medical records, the paper instead looks at death certificates, and counted "any death that had an ICD-10 code under 'Other forms of heart disease' (ICD I30-I52)." There are a number of problems with that, starting with the fact that "ICD-10 codes are not necessarily always accurate or specific; they are primarily used for billing."
Worse, the paper didn't include all codes related to cardiac issues, without presenting a rationale for using "Other forms of heart disease" but not the other codes. But wait, there's more!
Third, “cardiac arrest” is included, which simply means “the heart stopped” and can be the terminal event formany different diseases, not just cardiac issues.
Finally, many of these diagnoses are most likely related to ongoing disease processes (like heart failure) rather than an acute side effect of vaccination.
Overall, it is arandom, incomplete list defined not by a hypothesis, but by the arbitrary structure of hospital billing.[Emphasis in original — Dok Z]
Unfortunately, Panthagani points out, the researchers didn't attempt to actually verify what the actual diagnoses were behind those codes. She notes that if someone died from a bacterial infection of the heart, the death might well be included in the selected range of ICD codes, even though such an infection "could not plausibly be connected to a vaccine."
In fact, the anonymous author or authors of the study admit in its rather lengthy list of limitations that the use of death certificates made it impossible to say for sure what caused a patient's death:
This study cannot determine the causative nature of a participant’s death. We used death certificate data and not medical records. COVID testing status was unknown for those who did not die of/with COVID. Cardiac-related deaths were ascertained if an ACME code of I3-I52 were on their death certificate, thus, the underlying cause of death may not be cardiac-related.
Oh, but it gets worse, too: The sample size was ridiculously small. Out of 1,805 males aged 18 to 39 who had received mRNA vaccines during the study period, there were 20 who died of cardiac-related issues — at least according to the already dubious death certificate data. As Panthagani points out, "If even just a few of these have another cause (which is highly likely), they lose statistical significance."
She explained to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik that the "sample size is quite small and they’ve lumped together a lot of random cardiac things. Using a small sample size and a noisy data set is a recipe for unreliable results."
Hlitzik also points out that Ladapo fudged the conclusions of the (already sketchy) study, too:
The study itself cited only “a modestly increased risk for cardiac-related mortality 28 days following vaccination.” Ladapo, in his recommendation, called it an “abnormally high risk.” This is the language of partisan flimflam, not sober healthcare policymaking. The paper he cites bristles with warnings about its limitations, including that the data “should be interpreted with caution,” which is precisely what Ladapo didn’t do.
Other researchers have pointed out additional problems with the study as well, as ABC News reviews here; on the whole, the consensus is that the Florida study uses cherry-picked data to push an unsupportable conclusion. In reality, medical experts very much agree that people — even young men — are at far greater risk from the COVID virus than from the vaccine.
And as Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News, the real "enemy of public health, when you're dealing with a pandemic, is misinformation and disinformation. And unfortunately we have plenty of that."
So yeah, it's pretty bad that now at least one state health agency is a source of that disinformation. Given the Right's love affair with COVID disinformation, we won't be at all surprised if other red states start amplifying Florida's nonsense, too.
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